In the “Eat U.S.A” special section in the May, 2014 issue, we asked four culinary luminaries to tell us about a food pilgrimage. Read the others: John T. Edge describes his love for Cajun country, Ruth Reichl discovers farm-to-table cooking in northern California, and Peter Meehan finds the perfect sandwich in the Chicago suburbs. Photo courtesy of the Red Inn.
The man I’m with is allergic to formalities, especially those that dignify settling down. So although we’ve been friends for 29 years, cohabitants for 22, and parents for 18, Dennis and I are not married. I don’t mind our unweddedness, but I used to envy our married friends one benefit: the anniversary. Until we stumbled on our own.
Every summer for the past decade, I’ve taught a weeklong fiction workshop in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I spend mornings in a classroom while Dennis and our two sons do the fun, reckless things I wouldn’t condone, like bodysurfing. Afternoons, we doze at the beach; evenings, we eat overpriced seafood along the harbor.
Ten years ago, on the Friday of our first such week, friends offered to watch the boys. Dennis and I wandered down Commercial Street, a crazy quilt of luxe and louche. We were nearly at the breakwater, the topographical whiplash at the tip of Cape Cod, when we found ourselves facing a diminutive red-clapboard inn.
A path led us around the side to a deck facing the water, which led us to a low-ceilinged bar. We ordered cocktails and took them outside.
We had just time enough to share an appetizer: oysters en brochette. Wrapped in bacon, they arrived still sizzling, skewered on toothpicks, beside a ramekin of pink remoulade with just the right tinge of heat.
“I want to eat this every night,” I said.
A year later, I was invited to teach there again. Again, our friends took the children on our last day, and, as if under a spell, we meandered once more to the Red Inn. “The oysters!” we exclaimed, remembering.
They were still on the menu—and still sublime. This time we stayed for dinner.
The following year, before we left home, I made a reservation. I hired a sitter and packed a special dress.
This summer’s visit will be our 10th. By May, we’ll be thinking about our dinner there. I’ll Google the time of sunset and we’ll set out two hours ahead: one hour to roam and one to sit on that deck and watch the sky darken.
The dining room, always noisy, always full, has grown, but the menu is remarkably the same. We wouldn’t care—except for those oysters. Are they the best food we’ve ever eaten? Probably not, but our delectations of them are the closest thing we have to an anniversary. They’re a renewal, a promise, an occasion.
Julia Glass’s latest novel, And the Dark Sacred Night, was published in April. This appeared in the May 2014 issue.